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PASADENA — Despite being frequently billed in promos as a “new Shonda Rhimes” series, ABC’s new medical drama Off the Map is actually the brainchild of Rhimes’ protégé Jenna Bans.
Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice creator/showrunner Rhimes is an executive producer on Map, which revolves around a trio of young doctors who enlist for work at a medical clinic in the tropics and bows Wednesday at 10 p.m. And Bans worked under the prolific writer on Grey’s and Private Practice.
“If calling it ‘the new Shonda Rhimes show’ brings viewers to the table, I’m totally fine with that,” Bans told The Hollywood Reporter. “There’s credit to share. We’re all so proud of the show and we all feel ownership of it.”
Rhimes, however, was quick to give credit where credit is due. “It’s Jenna’s new show and I keep saying it’s Jenna’s new show and I’ll say it’s Jenna’s new show until somebody gets that it’s Jenna’s new show,” Rhimes told THR.
Bans, who first brought her idea for Map to Rhimes during development season in June 2009, admitted she was at first hesitant to pitch another medical series.
“But I knew I had it in my mind that it would be a very different kind of medical show,” she said, “one that involved action adventure, one that went beyond the confines of a hospital show that we’ve seen on television.”
And Rhimes did not hesitate to empower one of her star students. “Jenna she has such a specific voice in the writers’ room,” said Rhimes. “To be able to shepherd it through and help her out and stand back and let her get to do this thing was amazing.”
(For her part, Rhimes does have another series in development at ABC; a drama based on the career of prominent crisis manager Judy Smith, who has counseled a slew of infamous clients including Monica Lewinsky and Michael Vick.)
Betsy Beers, who serves as an executive producer on Map, Private and Grey’s, credits Bans’ stamina and energetic attitude in making the jump from producing to writing and showrunning Map.
“She’s endlessly energetic, has an amazingly good attitude but also has an amazing deep well emotionally that she draws from,” said Beers. “She’s able to balance scripts in a way between action and the emotional stories, which has been incredibly wonderful to watch.”
While the trio agree that Map is completely different than Grey’s and Private, Bans says the lessons she learned under Rhimes on Private and Grey’s will be evident on the Caroline Dhavernas, Zach Gilford and Mamie Gummer series.
Rhimes, said Bans, “has taught me that it is so important to know exactly what you want in a show and to know your characters inside and out because when you have 10 other voices from 10 other writers in the room, you really have to keep the tone consistent and keep the voices of the characters consistent.”
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